Corey Hickmann, president of Comfort Matters Heating & Cooling, Hanover, MN, knew that his young company had a commitment to quality and customer satisfaction that would enable it to handle even the most demanding customers' comfort needs in the challenging weather extremes of the North Star State. But it was a simple flier sent in the mail that started the ball rolling on the company's first Quality Home Comfort Award.
Last autumn, Comfort Matters received a call from homeowners who were looking to have a humidifier installed before winter. Although another company ended up being selected for that job, Hickmann and his team captured the customer information and put it into their marketing database. Fast-forward to spring, and a newsletter from Comfort Matters arrived in the mail, just as the homeowners were considering upgrading their entire comfort system. So began their "Comfort Matters Experience."
Clark White and Christopher Jordan, co-owners of the home, were researching area HVAC contractors on the Internet when the Comfort Matters flier arrived. "The flier impressed us. We picked up the phone, and from the moment we met Corey and his team, we didn't get competitive bids," says White. "We were so impressed with the service commitments and personalities of everyone that we met, we just didn’t look elsewhere. We were convinced that they were the best service for us, even if we had to pay more — which I don't know that we did."
That's music to Hickmann’s ears. "Clark and Christopher had high standards and wanted quality. They have a nice house in a very nice first-tier suburb of Minneapolis called Golden Valley. But they were having problems with uneven comfort from floor to floor because the house has five stories, and their 15-year-old, 80% furnace and 10 SEER cooling system weren’t up to the task," he says.
Building from a Solid Base
Comfort Matters is certified by the National Comfort Institute (NCI) in both residential and commercial air balancing and carbon monoxide and combustion testing. The company's motto is, "Creating clean, comfortable environments, one satisfied customer at a time." It holds itself to a very high standard and shoots for the (north) stars in its commitment to quality and customer service.
The company's marketing materials state: "Our company specializes in designing, engineering, and installing complete comfort systems for owners of existing homes and buildings just like yours. We take special pride in the craftsmen we train and employ — a fact you'll notice immediately in the attitude and integrity they bring to your job site. Our entire company works hard to make your experience with us hassle-free and enjoyable. Should we make a mistake, we will do everything in our power to correct it to your satisfaction.
"From the professionalism of our sales engineers, to the dedication of our field personnel, we are dedicated to delivering you the best. We take our responsibility very seriously when you place your trust in us. We pledge to always tell you up front what your cost will be to complete your job correctly. We make it a point to go over any details or limitations of the proposed system that will affect your enjoyment of the end result. You're told exactly what to expect up front. We back this philosophy with our exclusive written guarantee when choosing Comfort Matters Heating & Cooling, Inc. to contract your job."
Of course, anyone can write a wonderful-sounding marketing piece. In Comfort Matters' case, homeowners White and Jordan were about to find out that the commitment translated quite well from a marking piece into a superior quality comfort system.
The System Takes Shape
Hickmann and his team started by using NCI procedures and completed a room-by-room heat load calculation, then measured the home’s airflow with a flow hood. All accessible ductwork was sealed. The company installed its private-branded Comfort Matters Tranquility 16 SEER two-stage heat pump, a Comfort Matters 95% variable speed furnace, Trane CleanEffects 99.98% efficient air filtration, and a Comfort Matters by-pass humidifier. They topped it all off with a Honeywell zone system that features a Prestige High Definition thermostat with a wireless, Portable Comfort Control that allows the homeowners to take a thermostat with them anywhere in the house for the ultimate in zoning control.
"To help solve this customer's airflow issues, we added large return air to the mid-level family room, replaced ceiling registers, and added additional supply outlets to room," Hickmann says. "After completion of work we followed up with complete air balance and flow hood testing based on NCI Heat Max/Cool Max procedures."
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A challenge arose when a zone damper was needed on the second floor, but the placement of the damper was very difficult and required cutting through a concrete-block wall that was mined with water pipes. "We tried to work around placing that damper, but during a recent hot snap the homeowners called and said they were having comfort problems on that floor," Hickmann says. "I knew it was because we were lacking that damper. I told them, 'We can fix it, but we’ll have to cut a hole in your wall.' They agreed, and we had a technician at their house that same day at 7 p.m. We were able to get the damper into the zone and button it all back up that evening.
"This is an example of our no compromise policy," he adds. "When we give homeowners a price to provide them with comfort, that's the price. If we find out later that we have to go back and cut into the wall to make our system perform properly and make the customer happy, that's what we’re going to do."
The Mentors and the Commitment
White, who spent 28 years of his career in multi-family and conventional property management, says his background has given him a "streetwise" knowledge of what to expect out of an HVAC system. He came away from this job impressed by Comfort Matters.
"Corey Hickmann and his team are extremely thorough and professional," he says. "When they tell you they're going to do something, they do exactly what they say they're going to do. If there are any problems, they go out of their way to make things right. They were conscientious and responsive."
In addition to NCI, Comfort Matters has a two other notable mentors and partners that have helped them come a long way in a short time. The first is the Service Roundtable's Retail Contractors Coalition, the source of all the company's branded equipment.
The second is consultant Drew Cameron of HVAC Sellutions. Hickmann says Cameron is helping the company create, refine, and perfect the Comfort Matter Experience.
"We've been working with Drew on trying to encompass the entire atmosphere of Comfort Matters, from the first customer contact until our follow-up after we install the system," Hickmann says. "We've revamped our entire sales presentation. There are multiple surveys we do throughout the process: on our home advisers, our installation crew, and so on. Combined with the private branding of the equipment, we're making a mark for ourselves. In fact, we don't talk about equipment at all with customers anymore. We talk about whole house comfort, efficiency, service, and our commitment to providing customers with the environment they want."
Given that commitment, this first Quality Home Comfort Award for Comfort Matters won't be the company's last.
PRODUCTS KEY TO SUCCESS
- Private label Comfort Matters 95% variable speed gas furnace
- Private label Comfort Matters 16-SEER two-stage heat pump
- Trane CleanEffects air cleaner
- Private label Comfort Matters by-pass humidifier
- Honeywell zoning system with Prestige thermostat and Portable Comfort Control